“Always with a mind on the provenance of the piece and a respect for its previous existence, [Sir Joseph Hotung] took his position as a custodian of great art to be treasured and maintained for future generations of humanity very seriously.”
The highly anticipated two-part sale of the private collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung kicked off on 8 and 9 October in Hong Kong to exceptional results, led by a magnificent and extremely rare Late Ming dynasty folding horseshoe-back armchair. After a thrilling 15-minute bidding battle that saw more than 60 bids placed, the chair surpassed its HK$15 million high estimate more than eight times over to sell for HK$124.6 million (US$15.8 million) – making it a world auction record for a Chinese chair, and the second most valuable piece of Chinese classical furniture sold at auction.
Carved out of huanghuali rosewood, such folding chairs can be seen portrayed in paintings and prints from the Song Dynasty onwards, indicative of the high status attributed to them. The nature of the folding design meant the chairs were more prone to damage, making one in excellent condition a much sought-after item.
Other notable lots include a Han dynasty bronze male chimera, or bixie meaning “to avert evil spirits”, which surpassed its HK$8 million high estimate to reach HK$35.46 million (US$4.52 million); Qi Baishi’s set of four hanging scrolls, Flower and Fruits sold for HK$78.65 million (US$10 million); a Yuan dynasty blue and white porcelain jar depicting four fish swimming among water plants was snapped up for HK$39.7 million (US$5 million); and a gilt-bronze seated sculpture of Avalokiteshvara, Acuoye Guanyin dating to the Dali Kingdom of the 11th and 12th century doubled its high estimate to rake in HK$48.77 million (US$6.21 million).
“There are people who go through their whole lives without art, I nearly did. But their lives are perhaps not as dimensional or as full of colour as it could be.”
A true connoisseur of great taste and vision, Sir Hotung’s vast collection of art, objects, antiquities and furniture encompassing centuries of histories possess an eminent quality that is an unquestionable testament to Sir Hotung’s style and character. The chair was one of 129 lots that went under the hammer across two sales. In all, HOTUNG | 何東 The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung Part 1 Evening and Day auctions achieved a spectacular combined total of HK$563.6 million (US$72 million), smashing its pre-sale high estimate of HK$271.8 million, and securing a sell-through rate of 95.3%.
Looking ahead, in December, London will host HOTUNG | 何東 The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung Part 2 Evening and Day auctions which will feature works by titans of Western painting including Edouard Vuillard, Frans Hal and Edgar Degas, European neoclassical French silver by royal silversmith Robert-Joseph Auguste, 18th century giltwood furniture, and many more noteworthy pieces that demonstrate the philosophy by which Sir Hotung stood by during his incredible life.